Back Comments (36) Share:
Facebook Button
Of all the major releases of the last decade, one film that needs absolutely no introduction is James Cameron’s masterful Titanic. Almost ten years since it smashed almost every box office record known to mankind, Cameron’s romantic epic finally arrives on a disc worthy of the format. A couple of years ago, the film made it to the digital platform on a single disc, no feature release that satisfied nobody’s appetite for all things Titanic. The picture quality was substandard, the Dolby Digital score barely good enough, and with only a theatrical trailer included on the disc in the way of bonus material, you might say that this Special Edition release is a long awaited one.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)

Movie


Recently, James Cameron (who has produced no major films since) decided that he was “ready to go back to Titanic”. He teamed up with his cast and crew, and set out to deliver what he is calling the ultimate and final Titanic release for the platform. There are two sets available: a double disc special edition and a Lord of the Rings: Extended Edition-sized four disc set. This review is for the double disc edition, but I am pretty sure that most of you will no doubt head for the meatier DVD, especially because the price for the bigger set isn’t that much more than the price for this one. Nevertheless, the first two discs in this DVD set are identical to the bigger one, so you should still find this review useful, if only a little.

“It's been 84 years, and I can still smell the fresh paint. The china had never been used. The sheets had never been slept in. Titanic was called the Ship of Dreams, and it was. It really was.”


- Rose

Titanic is a love story, plain and simple. I remember, as if it were just weeks ago, my uncle and a few of his friends talking about going to see this film. I would have been about fourteen at the time, and I thought seeing a film about a ship that sinks at the end was somewhat pointless. I wanted to go and see Starship Troopers instead, but as I was overruled, I had no choice but to go and see some romantic disaster movie. Little did I know that I would be seeing a film that would become the biggest, most successful motion picture event of all time. I was also blissfully unaware that it would turn out to be so much more than “some epic love story”.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
Titanic opens with a sepia shot of the great ship when it was docked at Southampton. But Titanic doesn’t begin in 1912; it starts in the present aboard a ship of treasure hunters, who are deep-sea-diving to the ruins below in search of a valuable diamond. Brock Lovett (Bill Paxton) is only interested in this treasure, he doesn’t really care about the disaster and all those who suffered at the time, at least not at first anyway. Interestingly, most of the underwater footage captured is actually true to life material, what you are seeing is not in fact a vast model with fancy computer generated imagery, but the actual ruin itself. As you may or may not know, Cameron would revisit these ruins much later on to film a documentary called Ghosts of the Abyss.

“I can see the Statue of Liberty already… Very small, of course.”


- Fabrizio

When Brock and his team strike gold as they finally discover the rusted safe of Cal Hockley, their excitement is immediately silenced by the fact that the diamond is nowhere to be found. Out goes a TV broadcast, and who should see it but a little old lady by the name of Rose, who was a survivor of the disaster. What she also sees on her television screen is an old drawing of herself that was discovered in the safe, along with many other items. Clearly all of this must mean a great deal to her, because she and her granddaughter fly off to meet Mr. Lovett.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
From then on, the story of Titanic is told by Rose. She opens her heart and reveals many secrets that she has kept hidden until now. She tells them of her feelings at the time, and how she dealt with the pressures of those other higher-class people around her. She tells them how she became embroiled in new romance; even though she was due to marry. And she tells them what it was like to be aboard a ship that would meet its fate with an iceberg in the freezing Atlantic Ocean. At this, we are whisked back in time to see Rose’ story unfold. It is from here that the true majesty and awe of this film becomes realized within seconds, and it never lets up. But it is the way in which Cameron has taken the story of the ship, and placed a romance directly in the middle of it that is nothing shy of brilliant. We get to see the event, as if it was real, and we are drawn into it in the most palpable way it probably could have been done. From romance to disaster, the story of Titanic is both breathtaking and unforgettable.

“That's the one good thing about Paris: there's a lot of girls willing to take their clothes off.”


- Jack

In essence, Titanic is two films stitched together: the first is a story of curiosity and romance, the second of survival, hope and fate. In these two stories, all the bonds of humanity are bridged as the film turns from an almost calm examination of class and culture, into a dark and gritty tale of despair and tragedy. The music mirrors this change with diligence; it highlights the subtle, and then eventually dramatic changes in the flow of the film and its roots. Music plays a big part in any film, but here it wouldn’t be the same without it. It helps us to understand the characters, and it helps us feel what they feel as the tension and fear builds.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
James Horner, who unsurprisingly picked up an Oscar for best dramatic score, truly delivers one of the most heartfelt and emotionally-charged scores of all time with his work for Titanic. I dare anyone to listen to this score and not get even a little weepy. You can feel the horror of the disaster when you listen to this music, you can almost smell the saltwater and see the bodies strewn across the Atlantic in the wake of the sinking. The score also successfully captures the romantic brooding of Jack and the uncertainty of Rose in the tentative first moments. Then, as the story flows, so too does the direction of the music. And when the ship hits the iceberg, the thundering percussion swoops in to reveal the horrors and fears of those onboard Titanic. And mock it all you want, Céline Dion’s ballad (My Heart Will Go On) is a powerful and unapologetically sentimental send-off for the film that taps into the surge of emotion in those last few scenes.

“You can be blasé about some things, Rose, but not about Titanic. It's over a hundred feet longer than the Mauritania, and far more luxurious.”


- Cal

The film also boasts some of the finest production, special visual effects and costume work of any I’ve ever seen. Everything about the look and feel of this film is simply superb. The visuals are second to none, especially when you get to see them in full force with the sinking in the latter half. But Cameron is not one to replicate unnecessary things with computer technology, a lot of what you are seeing is a mixture of gigantic sets and models all meshed together with digital imagery – and to magnificent effect. Nothing looks digital, not even in the daunting and still very much jaw dropping sweeping shots at the beginning. Those Oscars were well earned. So too were the ones for cinematography and art direction/set decoration.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
Acting is also another Titanic stronghold. Though Leonardo DiCaprio was never going to win any awards, he still gives one of his better performances, and shines as Jack Dawson, the lowly but confident dreamer. But Titanic made one actress in particular come to life – Kate Winslet. She is now one of Britain’s best exports, and a damn fine talent she is too. Elsewhere, everybody is perfectly cast; Billy Zane as the refined and sometimes astute Cal, Kathy Bates as the energetic and not so lady-like Molly Brown, Bernard Hill as the captain, and of course Gloria Stuart as the adorable older Rose.

“Tell us of the accommodations in steerage, Mr. Dawson. I hear they are quite good on this ship.”


- Ruth

If you have been living under a rock for the last decade, then allow me to fill you in on what all this Titanic fever was and still is about. James Cameron (of Terminator, Aliens and True Lies fame) is unquestionably one of the greatest directors around. His films have done so much for cinema over the years, and his characters are immortalized by the countless millions who hold them dear. Cameron first made the breakthrough with Terminator all the way back in the mid eighties. That film was embraced by critics and moviegoers alike as being one of the definitive action films ever made – it still is today.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
He followed this up with the sequel to another genre masterpiece, Alien. The aptly named Aliens went on to be one of the biggest grossing films of its day, won more awards than pundits could count and, perhaps for the first time, made the common mantra that sequels are utter rubbish become almost entirely void. Later came the sci-fi thriller The Abyss, and then Cameron’s biggest and most critically lauded film up to then – Terminator 2: Judgement Day. Nothing needs to be said of this film, absolutely nothing whatsoever. It is arguably the best action flick of all time, and certainly the highlight of a certain Californian Governor’s career. Next came another Arnold Schwarzenegger film, and the third collaboration between Cameron and himself, True Lies. After this, Cameron began work on the most expensive and audacious film Hollywood had ever seen. Costing a staggering two-hundred-million-dollars (it would be several years before another film would cost this) and with a crew of hundreds, Titanic began production.

“We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down as gentlemen. But, we would like a brandy.”


- Benjamin Guggenheim

Industry analyst, studio bosses and moviegoers thought the famous and seemingly unstoppable Cameron was crazy to do what he was doing. How could a two-hundred-million-dollar film about a ship that sinks and where everybody dies possibly pay off? How could it ever expect to profit? Who would turn up to see it? All of these anxious questions at the time were quickly answered when the film saw its December 1997 release. The first batch of people to see it was gob smacked by the sheer scale and intimacy of the production. They emerged from the cinema, tear stained and emotionally flabbergasted.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
Clearly, the rest of the world heeded this initial reception, as Titanic would spend innumerable weeks atop the box office, and it quickly began to surpass film after film in its race to the top. And Titanic did indeed find the top spot, and there it remains even today, completely free from any competition. The Lord of the Rings may have proven to be the toughest rival of any film to date, but even that wasn’t enough to knock it from its pedestal. A little later on from all this financial and critical glory, Titanic swept the 1998 Academy Awards. It took home eleven golden statuettes that year, only the second film to win as many. Ben Hur was the first, and only Return of the King has since been able to achieve the same.

“I saw my whole life as if I had already lived it. An endless parade of parties and cotillions, yachts and polo matches. Always the same narrow people, the same mindless chatter. I felt like I was standing at a great precipice, with no one to pull me back, no one who cared... or even noticed.”


- Rose

I wasn’t quite sure whether to include this in my review or not, but Titanic does in fact have a personal family connection. Though the information we have obtained is still incomplete and somewhat fractured, we have uncovered titbits that inform us all too clearly that Bruce Ismay (who is played by Jonathan Hyde in the film) could well be part of our family genealogy – my great, great grandfather no less. Re-watching Titanic just recently has ignited a spark within that makes me want to do more research into the matter, perhaps unravel the mysteries for good.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
I know what to expect after this review goes live: I will no doubt be ransacked with angry protests due to the score I have awarded the film. Titanic is just one of those films I guess. Like a great many successful things, it has its detractors, even downright haters. But I don’t get it. Sure, the film has affected millions of people worldwide who went to see it at theatres, and it is currently holding the rank of most successful film ever, but why all the hate and abuse? It’s only a film. Okay, films like this are not just films, they become so much more, but hate and even anger is going a bit far in my opinion.

“The others were gracious and curious about the man who had saved my life. But my mother looked at him like an insect, a dangerous insect, which must be squashed quickly.”


- Rose

What really irks me however, are those who make nasty stabs at those who do love it. I obviously don’t have anything against those who dislike Titanic, but those few who make you feel small and pathetic for doing so (and they do exist, trust me) are way beyond my understanding and sympathy. I am sure those who bluntly hate it will find a torrent of reasons not to like any one aspect of the film, but if you are one who takes it upon yourself to ridicule those who hold it dear, I would like to understand the nature of that hate, because I don’t understand it.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
I have noticed that something as big as Titanic, that has affected so many on a global scale, is naturally more prone to abuse than something smaller, more cult-like. That’s a naturally occurring theme, and none of the bigger franchises ( Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter etc) is free from this hate-club that seems to form. And at the risk of sounding obtuse and supercilious, the simple fact is this: Titanic is the biggest grossing film of all time, it is one of the Academy Award highlights, it is a cornerstone of cinema and it is one of the great epics – nothing is going to change that. Like it or not, you wont change facts. And the fact is that no matter how many haters there are in the world, they compare not to the people who love it.

“1,500 people went into the sea when Titanic sank from under us. There were twenty boats floating nearby and only one came back, one. Six were saved from the water, myself included. Six, out of 1,500. Afterward, the 700 people in the boats had nothing to do but wait, wait to die, wait to live, wait for an absolution that would never come.”


- Rose

I have also heard some say that Titanic’s popularity lies solely within the confines of teenage girls going to see it repeatedly. I do not for a second think that almost two-billion-dollars would have been made through this demographic alone. Titanic is a film for all ages, both sexes and all cultures, and its success can be attributed to such. But ultimately, whatever it was that made Titanic the film it is today, and whether you like it or completely loathe it, there is no escaping that it is indeed a cornerstone of cinematic history. Like Gone with the Wind in the late thirties, Star Wars in the mid seventies, and most recently The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Titanic is cemented into our culture and our history for all time.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)

Video


On the original release many years ago, the picture quality was looked on as being pretty good at the time – how times have certainly changed. Looking back on that release, I found the image to be muddy, heavily flawed and just ugly to look at. Don’t get me wrong, it had nothing in common with the VHS counterpart at the time, but early DVDs were not pretty – well, at least not most of them. But, thankfully, all new restoration technology is now at hand, and James Cameron has spruced the special edition up to its absolute best. Gone are the hideous flaws of the past, the crummy and often sloppy colour handling, and now we have a brand new and fully restored digital transfer that screams quality.

It isn’t entirely perfect though; the image is marred by some softness here and there, and I still think that noise plays around the print a little too often, but the colours are now spot on. There are also problems to be found in the overall image sharpness, and fine detail isn’t as precise as it could have been, though in all fairness it’s still alarmingly accurate. Darker tones (namely the ones in last portion of the film) come though with diligence, and everything is fully distinguishable and crystal clear. To put it simply: this is the best Titanic has ever looked, and it wont be until high definition discs come along that it’ll be improved upon or look better.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)

Audio


With this special edition release, no expense was spared in all aspects of its undertaking, least of all the audio. You have everything to choose from now; Dolby Digital 5.1 EX, DTS ES 6.1 and Dolby Surround, so those of you with a beefy home theatre system will be able to fully appreciate the variety and, importantly, the quality of the audio in question. What’s more, this disc is also THX certified, so you get the nifty THX Optimizer tool too. So, how does Titanic sound? In a word, amazing. Pick either of the Dolby or DTS options and you will be in for a spectacular sound experience.

I demoed both, and there is nothing whatsoever to complain about. Bass is strong, even aggressive in the last part of the film. It isn’t too aggressive though, but it shows enough force where needed. And you can also count on exceptional dialogue and directional audio to sound equally as breathtaking. But what really makes all of this so special is all of the subtleties. Loud or quiet, you will be able to pick up on the usually indistinguishable audio lying in the background. You can hear the gentle clang of cutlery in the dining sequences, the ambient chatter and the tinkle of a wine glass.

Action sequences rumble with distinction, and even in these can you pick up on the quieter sounds that would naturally be occurring at the time. One scene in particular that stands out is the one where Rose goes to rescue Jack in the now water-flooded lower decks. As she wades though the water, axe in hand, you can not only hear the water rushing by, but distant lights popping. The audio presentation of this disc is truly exemplary, and certainly of the highest possible quality you can imagine.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)

Extras


As I mentioned above, Titanic: Special Edition is arriving in two flavours, a two disc and a four disc package. As this is the two disc set, a large bulk of the special edition extras are missing, but no matter, at least these two discs contain three, yes, count them, three feature-length audio commentaries. The first, and easily the best is the one from the man himself – James Cameron.

Stuff just explodes from him in a non-stop fashion, and he pretty much coverers everything you ever really needed to know about the making of the film. Considering several years have passed since his involvement with the project, he speaks as clearly and as energetically as if all of this knowledge were recent to him. This is one of the finest audio commentaries I have ever had the pleasure of listening to, and one I fully intend to listen to again at some point.

The second commentary is from the cast and crew. This one is good, if not great overall, but I would have liked to have heard from more of the cast – not least from the absent DiCaprio. The third commentary is for all those history buffs out there. It features many voices who are fully versed in the historical records of Titanic; not the best commentary track on the disc, but a good one to listen to nonetheless.

It is also worth noting that Titanic is split right down the middle. Discs one and two both contain one half of the feature, with the crossover occurring right after the iceberg hits, roughly one-hundred minutes in. The menu system is also a breeze to navigate, though I feel it is a little boring and I don’t like how the selections are slit between the lower and upper segments of the screen. A nice little touch is how the tone of the menu’s scenes and music changes from disc one to two. On the first, the music is upbeat and quite exciting; on the second it becomes sinister and dark.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)
Next up we have a pretty cool behind the scenes feature that works in a few different ways. Each of these sixty-one short featurettes (each runs for between one and two minutes) are spread across both discs, and can either be viewed separately or during the appropriate part of the film. There’s also a handy ‘play all’ function should you wish to view them all together. It has been reported that together they run for a total of around fifty minutes.

Onto the second disc. One of the most talked about features is bound to be the alternate ending. I could not help but fully agree with what Cameron has said about this end as I watched it, it just doesn’t fit. It doesn’t seem right at all, and it ruins the last bit of the film before we swoop though the ship for the last time. Thankfully, Cameron was talented enough to realize that the film needed to end on a more bittersweet note than the one the alternate end portrays. This feature comes with optional commentary, and it runs for about nine minutes.

Lastly, there’s the Céline Dion video for ‘My Heart Will Go On’. Unlike the other features on the disc, this video looks rough around the edges and not at all pretty to look at. I actually don’t like this music video. For me it represents the cheesiness that some associate with the entire film all rolled into this three-minute video. Aside from the clips from the film, it just isn’t a good or particularly innovative video. Most of it has Céline standing on a quickly assembled replica of the film set, while a faint breeze whips her hair and she makes odd movements with her arms.

So, that’s you’re lot for the first two discs. If you have purchased or plan on purchasing the four disc edition, you can look forward to much more content, including: several documentaries, a crate load of deleted scenes, three Titanic parodies, production and special effect features, and loads more. There are also apparently over 1500 stills, and much, much more for you to marvel at.

Titanic: Special Edition (2 Disc)

Overall


Whatever your feelings are towards Titanic, absolutely nothing is going to stop this DVD (and its four disc counterpart) from breaking all new records on the digital format. I have waited far too many years for James Cameron to revisit the ship of dreams, and I am delighted to say the wait was well worth it. Titanic is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest films ever made, and to finally have this long awaited special edition in my hands makes it seem like Christmas has indeed come early this year.

Slate me all you want, but Titanic always has, and always will have a very special place in my heart. Its not very often I hand out a perfect score, although recently it seems I am handing a few of them out, but Titanic is a film I simply couldn’t award any other score. Nothing is truly perfect, but some just demand it anyway – and this is no exception.

The DVD is amazing to say the least. Whether you purchase the two or four disc edition, you are going to be in for a real treat. The video presentation is damn near perfect, but the audio gets top honours. As for those long-awaited extras, well they are amazing too. Along with three brilliant audio commentaries, you get a huge heap of other stuff that will please just about anyone who has seen this film. Casual viewer or avid fan, these special edition sets will fulfil all your Titanic wants and needs.


Links: